Another week with not a whole lot of fluff in the SEC. Five games. All conference matchups. Two teams on a bye. That's it.
South Carolina @ Kentucky, 11:30am Central, Raycom
A couple weeks ago, I would have said this was a weekend to go off and do something, anything, to keep yourself busy in the late morning and early afternoon. I might have suggested you even stoop to spending time with your family or attempting to better yourself through reading a novel.
Now, I happen to think this is a pretty interesting matchup. South Carolina has put together a little winning streak, and beat a team I think is pretty solid last week. Their offense has shown some life, and the defense remains solid. Kentucky acquitted themselves pretty well against Bama last week despite the loss.
This could be one of those games that is won with single digit points. Neither of these teams play offense well, and both appear to have very good defenses.
What's more, this could be one of those games where the winner goes to a bowl and the loser stays home in December. Both sit at 4 win, and neither appear to have a lot of easy games left on the schedule. Both get Arkansas, so that's nice, but both also get Florida and Tennessee, neither of which appear to be outstanding right now, but both of whom are a lot better than Arkansas (well, maybe Tennessee isn't, we'll see). Kentucky has the hardest road, going through Georgia, Vandy, and Mississippi State in addition to the above three. South Carolina gets LSU (pretty much a wash with Georgia at this point) and Clemson.
Lose this week's game, and you could have trouble reaching the 6 or 7 wins it's going to take to make a bowl game.
Vandy @ Mississippi State, 1:30pm Central, Gameplan and ESPN360.com
It's the Mississippi State of last year versus the Mississippi State of this year. Vandy is winning games by getting turnovers, playing solid defense, and playing offense just barely well enough to be labeled "doesn't suck at it" if you're being charitable.
Mississippi State is now losing those games they won last year by getting turnovers, playing solid defense, and playing above-putrescent offense. They're not getting the turnovers, the defense is good again, but the offense has returned to putrescent unless Tyson Lee can continue his solid performance.
Which brings up an interesting question. Since the biggest problem with MSU was that they were playing a decomposing corpse at quarterback, and they may now have wised up and found a better one, are they a better team now? They certainly played us reasonably well, without ever actually threatening to win the game, but can they continue it.
This could be an upset special here. MSU may be better than their record indicates, and Vandy appears to be doing it with mirrors this year. The key matchup will be the resurgent MSU passing game attack versus the talented Vandy secondary. If MSU can have some success there, watch out.
Tennessee @ Georgia, 2:30pm Central, CBS
We've already seen one mid-season coaching change, and if Tennessee lays an egg here, we may see more. Tennessee isn't nearly the team that Georgia is at this point, though perhaps Fulmer is taking my advice and getting rid of negative wood. I doubt suspending two sophomore backup offensive linemen is going to do it, but maybe it's a start.
Georgia is pretty banged up right now, as pre-season All-SEC linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is 50-50 to play at all, and logically would appear to be less than 100% if he does play.
I don't know where Georgia's minds are at this point, having not gotten back on the field since a disappointing loss to Bama two weeks ago. I have a feeling, though, that they'll be ready to play, while Tennessee will continue to lapse into a stupor on the season.
Things were bad at Auburn pre-Franklin's ouster, but things appear to be much worse at Tennessee where coaches are publicly saying that players are not showing energy and Peyton Manning is giving interviews saying the players aren't listening to the coaches. This situation is poisonous and I don't see how Tennessee can beat a good team under the circumstances. Despite their flaws, Georgia still qualifies as a good team.
Arkansas @ Auburn, 4:00pm, Gameplan or ESPN360.com
Coming in the wake of the Tony Franklin firing, Auburn gets something of a bye week. OK, I'm being cruel to Arkansas, who in fairness have moved the ball very well even against pretty good teams. Who knows? This may be the week Arkansas actually starts putting those long drives into the end zone and pulls a game out?
I doubt it, but it's possible. However, if my team is struggling to score points, I would not want to be going to Auburn to try to fix it. Auburn's defense has been outstanding all year, even in games they've lost or struggled. Things might be a little different if Sen'Derrick Marks is not around, which I have not seen reports on. He did not finish the Vandy game, and the latest word is that he is questionable, as is Jerraud Powers.
Those are Auburn's two most valuable defensive players. Without them, is Auburn's defense still the monster it has been so far this season? It certainly took a step down in play against Vandy once those guys were out. But this is not Vandy. This is Arkansas (funny to say that, isn't it?)
I'm not sure I have a good feel for this game. With Auburn's coaching and injury situation, they just might be vulnerable here if Arkansas can improve its drive-finishing capability.
LSU @ Florida, 7:00pm, CBS
In the first CBS night game of the year, we're taking on the Gators in Benny Hill Stadium, or whatever its official name is. It's The Swamp of course. And it will be hostile, at least as hostile as Jordan-Hare Stadium was.
If LSU has a burning issue heading into this game, it is the play of the pass defense. The secondary has played well at times, but has had breakdowns. The linebackers have struggled to cover backs. The defensive line has not gotten consistent pressure when rushing four.
I think, because of Florida's spread, we will probably stay in nickel and dime defense most of the night, with the exceptions being short-yardage situations. This could cut down on the substitutions and the problems we've had with getting all the right players and the right call in when doing substitutions.
The further good news is that Darry Beckwith, the heart and soul of the linebacker corps if not the entire defense, is apparently ready to return to the field to play. He wasn't ready against MIssissippi State, but of course he's had two weeks to heal since that game. Of all the players on our defense, he is the guy we could absolutely least afford to lose to injury, and we lost him. A healthy Beckwith improves every aspect of our defense.
I look for the defense to play very aggressively to try to disrupt the passing game between Tim Tebow and the receivers. With Percy Harvin not at his best, the Florida receiving corps doesn't exactly frighten me quite like last year's. Louis Murphy is solid, but who else is producing all that much?
No, I eschew the safe zone and encourage blitzes and zone blitzes much of the time. Don't give Tebow time to throw deep passes, and maybe force a couple of mistakes along the way.
Oh, and please don't kick the ball to Brandon James in open space on punts. Thank you.